Posts Tagged ‘The Histories’

I am not one for rushing time away, but we cannot escape the fact that it is seven weeks to Christmas. Our splendid shop at The Courtyard (and I am sure we are ALL looking forward to the new shop in our new theatre) provides a wealth of  ideas for gifts and stocking fillers, especially when it comes to books.

At present, you may purchase three of the finest books available written about acting, and especially for the RSC. They are:

YEAR OF THE KING by Sir Antony Sher – a now classic account of  preparation and rehearsals for Richard III during the 1984 season, as well as some insights into other roles such as the Fool and Tartuffe.

EXIT PURSUED BY A BADGER by Nick Asbury – a marvellous account of what it was like to be part of the Histories Ensemble during 2006/8.

SOMETHING WRITTEN IN THE STATE OF DENMARK by Keith Osborn -an equally fascinating account of playing in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet and Love’s Labour’s Lost during the 2008 season.

What you have in these outstanding  books is a wonderful insight into being part of the RSC at a particular time in the history of the Company plus some fascinating “warts and all” anecdotes.

I DO hope that one of our current ensemble might have the time to eventually put pen to paper, as it were, to write a similar account of the past two seasons, not forgetting the one to come when we could have a historic account of  what it was like to be in the first productions of Shakespeare in the new RST.

Ah well, perhaps that is a treat in store. Meanwhile, the books already mentioned provide a treat ,and moments of pure nostalgia ,each time you dip into them. Buy them as seasonal gifts for those who love theatre and if YOU haven’t got copies, spoil yourself at the same time !

Tony Boyd-Williams

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Walking down Shaftesbury Avenue the other day, I noticed that Jonathan Slinger is in YES, PRIME MINISTER by Emily Joyce (who played Viola in the 1995 revival of Ian Judge’s Stratford set production of  TWELFTH NIGHT).

 And there’s a coincidence!  Sir Peter Hall is directing a revival of the same play at the National in January to celebrate his eightieth birthday. Joining daughter Rebecca as Viola, are a galaxy of RSC alumni – Simon Callow as Sir Toby Belch. Amanda Drew (from the 2002 Jacobean season) as Olivia, David Ryall (The Mysteries and Hamlet from the 1996/7season) as Feste, James Clyde (who played Feste in Neil Bartlett’s Courtyard staging) as Antonio, Jeffry Wickham (also in the 1996/7 season, and of course Professor Kirk in THE LION,THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE).They are also joined by Judi Dench’s daughter, Finty, who will be playing Maria, designer Anthony Ward and (as Geraldine recently informed us) the Assistant Director is Richard Twyman ex THE HISTORIES.

 Speaking of which …If you cross Waterloo Bridge and head for the New London Theatre, the current ensemble in WAR HORSE includes  Anthony Shuster from THE HISTORIES, Zubin Varla (no introduction needed) and James Barriscale who was a member of the Stratford company in 1994.

Aha  I have just noticed that a number of RSC alumni are appearing in the National’s current HAMLET, but I think a further blog is called for.

To be continued …

Tony Boyd-Williams

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There is an lovely, long interview with Jonathan Slinger, currently appearing in “Yes Prime Minister” at the Gielgud Theatre in London, on the Official London Theatre’s website http://www.officiallondontheatre.co.uk/. I wonder what and where his “return to the dark form” will be; we can only keep our fingers crossed! Richard Twyman, the Associate Director on the Histories and director of Henry IV Part 2, has moved up the road from the arches under Waterloo Station to the National Theatre, where he is the Associate Director to Sir Peter Hall on the production of “Twelfth Night”.

Geraldine Caulfield

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The evening of 31st July was fine and the sun shone through the windows of St Helen’s Church. We enjoyed cakes, ale and wine in the grounds. However, the real purpose for our gathering  in Clifford Chambers on this occasion was to hear about this “other Tudor poet ” Michael Drayton.  A most enjoyable  and witty talk (illustrated with readings) was given by Roger Pringle and doubtless Roger has inspired some of us to make another literary pilgrimage but this time to Westminster Abbey to see the grave of this contemporary of Shakespeare.

It will also be good to read some of Drayton’s work, whether it be his epic poem based on the Wars of the Roses -The Baron’s Wars -or his equally epic work about England -Poly  Olbion  (fascinating title !). His sonnets will also repay careful study, especially the one containing these quite philosophical words to his true love, Anne (coincidence?) -“Since there’s no help, come let us kiss and part”.

I note that the Complete Works of Michael Drayton are available in paperback, so maybe they will be put on my “what would you like for Christmas? ” list  (as well as RSC gift vouchers !).

During his talk, Roger mentioned the popular rumour that Drayton MAY have been involved in that celebrated Pub crawl with Shakespeare and Ben Jonson. We were also reminded that at this moment in history, Clifford Chambers was in the County of Gloucestershire. That set me thinking. In Henry IV -Part 2, Shakespeare transports us to Gloucestershire when Falstaff visits Justice Shallow in order to collect recruits, and scrounge hospitality. In view of the proximity of Clifford to Stratford, Shakespeare may well have visited and if so, was THIS the Gloucestershire which inspired him?

Interesting. Maybe the celebrated pub crawl and possible inspiration for a scene from The Histories are in themselves suggestions for new work. One thing is certain, any new play based on such material would be splendidly promoted by the  RSC Marketing Dept.

Excuse me, while I finish here and sharpen my quill …

Tony Boyd-Williams

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Maureen Beattie will be appearing in Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard” at the Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh from 16th April to 8th May. More details can be found at http://www.lyceum.org.uk/. You will remember that Maureen moved effortlessly from playing the Duchess of York in Richard II, traded down to Mistress Quickly for the Henry IVs and V, was ennobled again as the Duchess of Gloucester in the Henry VIs and ended as another Duchess of York in Richard III.


This news has been in the public domain for a while but, in case you haven’t seen it elsewhere, some information about Jonathan Slinger and Chuk Iwuji.
Jon will be going to Chichester Festival Theatre, once he finishes in “The Gods Weep”, to appear in “Yes, Prime Minister” with Henry Goodman and David Haigh from 15th May to 5th June http://www.cft.org.uk/cft-productions.asp .

While Chuk is back at the National Theatre http://www.nt-online.org/  in “Welcome to Thebes” with David Harewood and Nikki Amuka-Bird, another “The Gods Weep” cast member, playing from 22nd June.

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Well, it never rains but it pours! Another Histories boy, Lex Shrapnel will be appearing in Leeds in the West Yorkshire Playhouse production of the Arthur Miller classic, “Death of a Salesman”. It runs from 1-29 May in the Quarry Theatre. Further details can be found at  http://www.wyp.org.uk/

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I’m very pleased to say that Geoffrey Streatfeild has surfaced again. He will be appearing in “Eigengrau” by Penelope Skinner at the Bush Theatre, Shepherd’s Bush, London. The play runs from 10th March to 10th April.  More details can be found at http://www.bushtheatre.co.uk/.

by Geraldine Caulfield, RSC Friends, London

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Jonathan Slinger

Nick Asbury

Kieran Hill

Many of us enjoy watching the careers of actors who have been part of the RSC. For those Friends interested in where the members of the Histories ensemble are now, take a trip to the Octagon Bolton where Kieran Hill is playing a wonderfully theatrical “Bottom” in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”  until March 7th(www.octagonbolton.co.uk ). The Bolton production is directed by David Thacker, who worked at the RSC in the 1990s and stars Rob Edwards, another RSC stalwart, as Theseus/Oberon. Kieran played Mayor’s Officer in Henry VI Part I, Horner in Henry VI Part II, Westmoreland in Henry VI Part III, Lord Mayor in Richard III, Ned Poins in Henry IV Parts I and II and was in Henry V as part of the ensemble.

Just down the road at the Manchester Royal Exchange Tom Hodgkins has just finished a short run in “Raisin in the Sun”. Alongside Tom was Ray Fearon, a distinguished Othello for the RSC before he found wider fame in Strictly Come Dancing and Coronation Street and Tracy Ifeachor, recently seen in “Noughts and Crosses”. From the rave reviews let’s hope that this production will reappear in a theatre near you. Tom played Bedford/Bassett in Henry VI Part I, Duke of Buckingham in Henry VI Part II, Hastings in Henry VI Part III and Richard III, Earl of Westmoreland in Henry IV Parts I and II and was in Henry V as part of the ensemble.

Another “Histories” boy, Nicholas Asbury, is currently to be seen at the Orange Tree, Richmond, until March 20th, in a new play called The Promise by Ben Brown (www.orangetreetheatre.co.uk) about the birth of the state that became Israel. The play also stars Oliver Ford Davies, last seen at the RSC as Polonius to David Tennant’s Hamlet, and Christopher Ravenscroft, whose RSC credits include the original production of “Nicholas Nickleby”. Nicholas played Somerset in Henry VI Parts I, II and III, Vaughan in Richard III, Henry Bushy/Abbot of Westminster in Richard II, Pistol in Henry IV Part II and Henry V as part of the ensemble.

It is also great when our favourites return to the RSC and it is good to learn that Jonathan Slinger will be at the Hampstead Theatre next month in the RSC production of The God’s Weep.

by Geraldine Caulfield, Friends of the RSC, London

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